Friday, February 26, 2010

Health for Rent?

We’ve probably all rented something at some time in our lives. Whether renting an apartment or house or rent-to-own furniture and appliances, have you ever noticed that some people seem to treat what they rent, rather than what they own, with less respect? If something breaks, you just call the landlord or rental company. When something goes wrong, there’s always someone else to blame. You don’t even have to pay the rent on time—although there are consequences if you don’t. We all know about the consequences that are the results of our actions.

So, what’s this about “renting your health?” Well, consider the above rental scenario—and apply it to health, wellness, weight loss . . . there is a connection here. If you are “renting” your health, rather than “owning” your health, you might easily fall into the mindset of “finding someone else to blame” for your lack thereof. There is a hard truth here: The only way to “own your health” is to take the personal responsibility for making things work out the way you want them to—and that starts with owning your decisions regarding the choices you make. These can be better nutritional choices, finding ways to become more physically active, and the choice to quit smoking.

Say you decide to keep renting for awhile . . . fast forward ten or twenty years. Add the extra pounds you'll likely be carrying (or shortness of breath, lack of energy, lack of physical stamina). Visualize your appearance. Imagine your health problems. Compare these images with your personal values. How do you feel about this future?

Did you know Americans consume an average of 250 more calories per day than they did two decades ago? That's 26 extra pounds to burn off every year just to stay even. Or that if we retain only an extra 50 calories per day, it can lead to an extra 5 pounds of weight gain per year (25 pounds in just 5 years). Or that almost one-half of all Americans report having a chronic illness—and those illnesses account for 75 percent of our national spending on health care. And that almost 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by three preventable health behaviors—physical inactivity, poor nutrition and overeating, and smoking.

In other words, way too many of us are acting as if we are only “renting,” with the ability to move into another body when we find one we like better, or find someone else to blame, or find someone to fix what doesn’t work.

But what about taking ownership of our long term health and wellness—and for making those personal decisions that will get us there?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are You Working Your Way Through “Wellnessland?”

“I can’t believe THAT!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” said the Queen in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said, “one can’t believe impossible things.”

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." ~ Lewis Carroll Through the Looking Glass

And, now you’re wondering, maybe, what this has to do with wellness—specifically, LoneStart Wellness. Let’s start at the top—Believe it and you’ll see it! This is what LoneStart Wellness calls “Achieve and Believe.” You begin to achieve your goals, you begin to believe you can continue to achieve your goals, and you achieve even more.

Believe it, it’s not impossible. And when you begin to believe what you once thought impossible is actually possible, you are working your way through “wellnessland,” a wondrous place indeed.

But, how do you get there in the first place, short of falling down a rabbit hole or stepping through a looking glass? Well, this part of the journey does start with a first step—and it’s a step in the right direction. But, it can also be the part of false starts, failed attempts and perhaps the part where you decide it’s time to give up.

“I should see the garden far better,” said Alice to herself, “if I could get to the top of that hill: and here's a path that leads straight to it—at least, no, it doesn't do that – (after going a few yards along the path, and turning several sharp corners), “but I suppose it will at last. But how curiously it twists! It's more like a corkscrew than a path! Well, this turn goes to the hill, I suppose—no, it doesn't! This goes straight back to the house! Well then, I'll try it the other way.”

But, don’t give up. LoneStart Wellness is the “other way.”

To reach “Wellnessland” you first have to believe in your ability to do so, and believe it, you can. The road to Wellnessland is yours’, and it becomes a part of your individual and personal reality. It becomes real—and you make it real by creating the vision of what you want to achieve, believing it is possible, and taking the actions (those first steps) to make it real.

And this is why the road to Wellnessland is a personal journey. You alone know what LoneStart calls your “personal motivational triggers.” Your motivational triggers may be very different from anyone else’s. What makes them real for you is exactly what will drive you to achieve your goals, and this is the same path each of us takes. It’s an individual journey—even though we can share the road along the way, each of us perhaps with a slightly different “reality” of what we will accomplish on our journey to Wellnessland. What you will accomplish is what you may have started out believing was “impossible.” Now, you can believe the impossible. You have achieved, you believe, and you are in Wellnessland.

“Oh how glad I am to get here!” said Alice. “And what is this on my head? How can it have got there without my knowing it?” It was a golden crown.

When you reach Wellnessland, you too will find a “golden crown.” And you’ll know exactly how “it got there.”

LoneStart Wellness would like to acknowledge and thank Lewis Carroll for providing the inspiration for this post.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Blame Game

We all know there are compelling reasons to stay physically active (reduce the incidence of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension; improve mental health, keep muscles and bones strong—just to name a few). Physical activity also burns calories, an important part of the “calories in—calories out” equation. And, a sedentary lifestyle, as well as our pursuit of finding ways to avoid physical activity (remote controls, parking as close in as possible, escalators and elevators), has been blamed for our collective weight gain.

But wait—isn’t blaming inactivity maybe just another way for the fast food and processed food industry to escape responsibility for the appetizing and calorie-dense foods they produce, advertise and promote?

And, maybe, we don’t like the idea that we just plain eat too much. We would probably all like to believe that (assuming we choose to do so), we can offset what we eat by burning more calories through physical activity—and let the party continue. But let’s be fair . . .

How large a role does physical inactivity actually play in today’s obesity epidemic / crisis? A recent study in Obesity Reviews revealed some interesting insight on the physical activity side of the equation. It found that during the last 17 years only a minority—about a third—of adolescents met the recommended daily levels for physical activity. At the same time, the data shows that American adolescents have not decreased their level of physical activity, and that physical activity levels have actually been stable over the past 17 years. But, and this is the big “but,” the study found that during the same period of time obesity rates in kids had roughly doubled.

Now, on to the nutrition side of the equation.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the relative contributions of food and physical activity to the development of the obesity epidemic. Their finding: The rise in obesity in the United States in the last three decades was virtually all due to increased calorie intake.

We know adults and children are eating about a third of their calories from foods prepared outside the home. We know too, that portion sizes have grown and today Americans consume an average of 250 more calories per day than they did two decades ago. That's 26 extra pounds to burn off every year just to stay even. To burn those pounds, remember, you would have to walk approximately 35 miles to burn 3,500 calories. And, you need a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose just one pound!

So, if we’re playing the “blame game” there’s plenty to go around. We can blame the food industry for creating and marketing unhealthy foods; we can blame the economy (in part) for our dependence on “convenience” and high-calorie comfort foods; we can blame our employers for our stress and lack of free time (which of course we would use to prepare fresh, healthy meals at home); we can blame restaurants for larger portion sizes and calorie-intense options loaded with sodium; we can blame the schools for fat-laden school lunches and doing away with or reducing physical education . . . and the list goes on.

But, what happens if we blame ourselves? Well, then wouldn’t we have to hold ourselves responsible for doing something about it?